Plague Inc. is a highly realistic simulation game from Ndemic Creations, where the goal is to infect, and then kill the world with a plague from a variety of types. However, there is a lot more depth to this game than simply trying to infect the world, as you have to delve into manipulation of the plague and evolve it in order to overcome research and changing environmental conditions.
Apart from the premise of infecting Patient Zero, and going from there, there is no story in this game. Saying that, some of the rolling news headlines can be quite amusing at times.
There isn’t much in the way of variation of the music for this game – all the various different themes that there are for the different plague types are all based off the main theme for the game. However, it is effective, and does lend a certain air to the game – for example, when playing as the “Neurax Worm”, a brain controlling plague, the background music takes on a slightly eerie feel to it.
There are also various sound effects in the game as well, ranging from airport announcements to the noise of a life support machine beeping, which pop up at various points amongst the game, and these add to overall atmosphere.
Okay, there isn’t actually much in the way of graphics when it comes to this game – all the action takes place on a stylised world map screen, with the occasional flick to the plague screen, where you can evolve and manipulate your chosen disease.
The world map screen itself is fine – you can identify most of the different countries at a glance, and the way certain parts of the world map break down make sense, for the most part. It is also quite easy to track how your plague is carried by shipping and air traffic – when a transport route becomes infected, the line signifying that route becomes red. It’s quite good fun waiting and watching all the transport lines change as your plague starts taking over.
In the plague screens, everything is very clean-cut and easy to read. When evolving your plague’s different genetic abilities, each “branch” line has its own icon, which makes then easy to identify, and it’s all very clear. The information is all available on the one screen as well, so there isn’t much in the way of moving around between screens – for example, if you want to evolve transmissions, everything you need is on the transmissions screen.
On the world screen, there’s a handy graph showing how much of the world is infected, what percentage is left to be infected, and how many dead. This screen also shows the level of progress of the cure, and which country is leading the cure effort. There’s also other useful stuff such as a table showing which countries haven’t been infected (always Greenland and/or southern Africa are the last, it seems) and those that have been infected.
At the end of it, this is a very clean game as far as graphics go, and the interface is very nice.
There isn’t anything in the way of multiplayer in this game, however, there is a nice bit of community feeling in that the Steam Workshop allows players to create scenarios and then upload them for others to have a go at. Some of them quite fiendish, as well…
Edit:- About a week after originally writing this, the developers added a multiplayer update to the game. However, I’ve yet to try it out.
This game has four difficulty modes, ranging from easy to brutally hard. These modes have a significant impact on the game – in easy mode for example, it’s very easy to infect people with the plague, there is no hand washing, and research doctors take a long time to do anything. In mega-brutal difficulty, though, people who become infected are quarantined, doctors work around the clock, and there are random medical checks carried out on the population.
Where the challenge in this game comes from however, is from the need to balance infecting the entire population of the world and from there, eradicating the human population, without having the disease discovered, and then cured. There seems to be two main ways to play this game – there’s the slow and subtle approach, where you infect all the population first, and then begin to kill them all off, or there’s the other approach where a highly infectious, nasty plague is evolved, and it eradicates as quickly as it infects.
However, the latter approach is much more likely to get noticed and from there, cured, whereas the former is much more likely to be successful – although it will take much longer to get the job done.
As already mentioned; most of the gameplay takes place on the map screen. Once you’ve established what sort of plague it’s going to be, and what abilities the plague has, you have to pick a country for the plague to start in.
Although it may not seem like an important decision, this does have an impact on how successful the plague will be – for example, start the plague in a Middle Eastern country, and it initially starts off slightly more adapted to warmer climates, but it has to be evolved in order to take on colder places, start in the UK and the plague’s adapted more to wet humid climates, but will struggle in deserts.
Starting location also affects how quickly the plague spreads – it’s logical in way, but a country which is an island and isolated with no ports or airports means the plague has to be evolved so that it can be carried by birds and then effect other countries during bird migrations, making the plague slow to spread. Alternatively, start in a country with plenty of land borders and an airport, and the plague spreads fairly quickly.
After a country has been infected, things slow down a bit whilst waiting for the plague to accumulate DNA points so that it can be evolved – and that’s where the fun part begins. As already touched on, there are various branches of genetic ability that a plague can be evolved to have, however, the trick is evolving it in such a way that it transmits quickly, infects easily, but also doesn’t get cure easily, before evolving the plague so that it kills all of humanity. The detail and planning for this can get quite involved, especially once countries start figuring out there’s a plague and start on cure research. However, it is great fun going back and trying again, and trying to find a better way of destroying the world.
There are about half a dozen or so different plague types, and they all play differently, so what might work for one plague may be completely useless with another, and it does give a good mental challenge trying to figure out the different strategies which can be used.
This game is great to continually come back to, once all the plagues and upgrades have been unlocked, it’s fun just to destroy the world and see how quickly it can be done it.
Alternatively, you can try any of the scenarios included within the game, and try and complete those, and once you’re bored of them, there are many more player-created ones available to run through on the Steam Workshop. I can keep coming back to this game over and over again.
Replay Value: 10
I adore this game to bits, and have whiled away many an hour on it, and will more than likely while away many more an hour on it. Now, please excuse me, I have a population of 7 billion humans to eradicate with my newest designed neurax worm…
Written by Karen